Welcome to the future…and it’s the mid-1980’s. Leah Haney revels in it, from the jewel-toned color palette to Art Deco revivalism to cyberpunk. In her hands, these vintage ingredients manifest as frozen explosions of multiple perspectives and cosmic architecture, in her appropriately titled solo exhibition Divergent Space (on view through January 5) at Austin’s Tiny Park. They’re anything but dated. — Brian Fee (Austin contributor)
Leah Haney | Hypernova Cityscape, 2012, acrylic and collage on panel, 24” x 18”. Courtesy the artist and Tiny Park, Austin.
I first encountered Haney’s art at Tiny Park’s 2012 Drawing Annual. These works, and her related Space Jam series that crowned Tiny Park’s inaugural group exhibition at their new location, featured dense blasts of color erupting from birch panel backdrops. She incorporated collage elements (like a retro-ish interior) into drawn-on or excised grids and cloudy acrylic washes, forming multidimensional environments zooming off the panels’ natural woodgrain physicality. Divergent Space improves on this by eliminating evidence of the wood panels entirely, beyond the paintings’ super-sharp edges. Haney pumps up the color and structural elements, and even her spacier compositions bear a torquing motion and presence.
Hypernova Cityscape is characteristic of Haney’s foray in allover composition: a mid-sized work bursting with chromatic contrasts. She mirrors the collage’s facade with floating diagonal grids, hand-applied with black pinstriping tape and its negative impression in excavated acrylic paint. A chilly blue (or white-hot?) bundle of vertical bars bisects the collage, casting fractured diagonal rays of teal from the building’s destabilized core, while reverberating magenta saturation backdrops the action. Haney posits that the image of an erupting city skyline in space is ominous. Her paintings “celebrate the beauty of architecture, its complexities, details, and the progress of humanity, but the explosions are violent and disruptive as a supernova.”
Leah Haney | Pangalactic Cabinetry, 2012, acrylic and collage on panel, 7” x 10”. Courtesy the artist and Tiny Park, Austin.
Small-scale compositions predominate in Divergent Space. Some bear a vignette quality, echoing their intimate proportions, like a principally related “rooms of tomorrow” sequence (my descriptor). Each focuses on a particular interior, and her collage choices — like Spirograph Continuum‘s glass partition versus view-portals to outer space — are as thoughtful as the works’ naming conventions (ditto for Pangalactic Cabinetry). In another arrangement, Hyperspatial Collapsium encapsulates Haney’s synthesis dexterity in a barely eight-inch square. She collages interior imagery with a painted supernova, reemphasizing this spatially disrupting rift with a stellar explosion piercing through everything.
Leah Haney | Hyperspatial Collapsium, 2012, acrylic and collage on panel, 8 ½” x 8”. Courtesy the artist and Tiny Park, Austin.
The influence of engineering visionaries permeates Haney’s work, like Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbau (“He helped me see art and architecture as something that can grow and morph,” she says), and Gordon Matta-Clark’s building interventions and collages. I believe her understanding of architecture’s dynamism and benevolent experimentalism keeps the dystopian sci-fi themes in check, thereby balancing out these “intergalactic interiors” from becoming harbingers of technology run amok (à la William Gibson’s Idoru).
Leah Haney | Active Galactic, 2012, acrylic and collage on panel, 30” x 30”. Courtesy the artist and Tiny Park, Austin.
We return to the exhibition title, as Haney considers the connection between man-made structures and boundless space: “There is no horizon line in space, yet the images of rooms and architecture are based in a perspective with a vanishing point on earth’s horizon. Buildings and rooms colliding and exploding in space is my own perception of sci-fi and the massive void of space, painted as a reaction to the structures that surround me.” In contemplating my relocation from metropolitan Manhattan to Austin, TX — a city in seemingly perpetual urban development — I find Haney’s perspective entirely timely.
Leah Haney | Ripples from the Zenith Shards, 2012, acrylic and collage on panel, 24” x 18”. Courtesy the artist and Tiny Park, Austin.
Leah Haney graduated with a BFA from the University of Texas at Austin in 2010. She was featured in a solo exhibition at AMOA-Arthouse in Spring 2012, plus she has participated in group exhibitions in various Austin galleries. Haney is the 2012 Austin Visual Arts Awards winner in the category two-dimensional art. Divergent Spaceat Tiny Park continues through January 5.
Brian Fee is an art punk currently based in Austin, TX. His culture blog Fee’s List covers his three loves (art, film, live music) occurring in his other three loves (the Lone Star State, the Big Apple, and Tokyo).
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